Episode 7: Crisis
The dogfight has become very difficult. My shields have been reduced to fifty percent of their strength. I am at a disadvantage with a slower ship. On the other hand I have the plasma cannon though I can only take limited shots. The flight around the asteroid field makes this situation far more complex but I am using all that I have learned to arrive at a safe position. A strange feeling of excitement filled me with energy. Nervous I prepared one last attempt to eliminate the enemy. An ambush using multiple signal decoys fooled my opponent into letting its guard down. I take a shot and make a direct hit. The explosion of the enemy ship marked the end of the test. I am now certified as a pilot of Starlance.
Leaving the simulation chamber I noticed a large group of people watching the battle in some monitors. Curious I asked Crystal what the commotion was. She pointed to another simulator, from it emerged the Captain.
“That was some amazing flying Ensign, I have not been so thrilled in a long time.”, she seemed a little out of breath.
“Ma’am, it was you? You were controlling the other ship?”
“I was indeed. You have great skills. I learned some good moves.”
“I am honored Captain.”
“Your Starlance identification should be updated by now, good work.”, she looked at the other soldiers, “Alright everyone, the show’s over, back to work! Dismissed!”
As the crowd dispersed Mara and James emerged from it. They congratulated me on my endeavor. Together we traveled back to hangar bay sixteen where soon I would have some work to do. My shift was still much later, I spent most of the morning preparing and taking the piloting tests. I decided to stay and chat with Vivian along with some of the other technicians.
We stood there for almost an hour, we kept out of the way as the first shift was still working moving a number of supplies around. In that moment Mara reminded me that I still had to make the upgrades to the Star Shadow. I replied that I would do the work as soon as I began my shift. My communicator interrupted the start of the next sentence. When I activated it the Captain’s familiar voice came through.
“I need you on the bridge now. Tell Mara and Crystal to accompany you.”, her voice was full of concern. I have not known the Captain for long but it seems as she now relied on me more than she would her most trusted officers.
At the bridge Captain Villanova gave us a short briefing on a situation in a colony named Alpha Centauri Twelve. For some reason pirates had begun a deadly raid on it. Not only had they attacked and invaded but they were trying to do as much damage as possible.
“I want you three to go there and help the security forces deal with the pirates inside the colony. We received very little of the distress call, it seems the pirates are jamming their communications. Crystal, you have some experience as a medic so you will coordinate the medical needs. Mara, you will take command of a small group of soldiers. Use our superior firepower to push the pirates back to their ships. Finally, Adrian, your mission is to do research on the attack, provide tactical support for Mara and Crystal, and get the colony’s defenses online. Use a transport to get to the colony, Squadron Sigma will escort you. They will also battle the pirates to try and get them to disengage. I will send more squadrons as necessary but I remind you that I cannot leave this station or the Proxima Eclipse unprotected.”
“Acknowledged Captain.”, we said together.
It seems that the pirates have emboldened or Starlance has weakened. Perhaps through this mission I could gain some more information, I’m sure that the Captain expected me to investigate the pirate actions beyond this attack.
After an hour of preparations the teams launched from the Proxima Eclipse. Squadron Sigma made the jump first and then the transport shortly after. The Star Shadow was in some one else’s hands, I hoped that it would be returned in one piece. Teams of soldiers prepared their weapons as Mara plotted the course to be taken and tried to communicate with the authorities on the colony. From afar we saw a number of large ships firing on the colony as if their intention was not to merely raid but to destroy the colony.
A report from the colony arrived. Hundreds have died. Many colonists and the government have already taken refuge in bunkers. Colonists on streets and buildings are still under threat.
Alpha Centauri Twelve is a ring type colony. The effect of gravity is generated by rotation. This type of colony is massive in terms of size. Most of these colonies are old and possess outdated defenses making them easy targets. Starlance had been the sole deterrent until now, something must have changed.
Our entry into the colony’s airspace was relatively without incident. Our fighter escort quickly moved out to battle the pirate ships.
Once on the ground Mara ordered the teams to engage. She assigned two soldiers to provide cover for me. The main target for my team was the communications center, from there we could gather the most information on how this attack came to be.
The city streets were a dangerous battleground. Police had limited weaponry compared to the pirates. Our soldier teams were far more effective and quickly turned the tide. At the communications center I saw a number of wounded and some medics. To my surprise among the medics was a very familiar face. The young lady was finishing up putting bandages on a wounded policeman.
“I think fate had this meeting saved for us.”, she looked up her face lit with a great smile and she jumped to hug me.
“Adrian!! I can’t believe you’re here. When I heard of the attack on the Proxima Eclipse I thought you might have…”
“It’s alright Dana, I’m safe for now. Do you know what happened here?”, she let go slowly and took a step back.
“As far as I know, the attack was unprovoked. There is little of importance here, commerce has been slow since the collapse of two mines in the past week. It could be a show of force for the way they have continued their attack. I had arrived to bring some wounded workers from another collapsed mining asteroid.”
“Darn, not much to go on. I have to get to the main data terminal in this building, I’ll be back later. Will you still be here?”
“It’s unlikely, there are many wounded to tend to. Look, I know that you’re on the Eclipse, if anything happens I’ll contact you there.”
I nodded in agreement then took her hand. “Please stay safe.”, she smiled and nodded. After a few seconds I let go and continued my way up the stairs in front of the structure.
Moving up the building was difficult as the whole colony was shaking from the attack. The blasts from the main pirate ship had been weakening the shields progressively.
When I arrived at the data terminal I retrieved all the information I could and began setting up the colony defenses. For some reason they had been shut down. A barrage of laser beams now began pushing the pirates away. On the city streets many pirates had either been killed or captured by our troops.
Of the information I found, I learned that the vessel leading the attack was a Starlance battle cruiser. I could barely believe it. The schematics were precise though I noted a number of modifications, as with all pirate technology.
The pirates called off their attack, a small number of them escaping by the use of their invasion transports. When things began to settle down Mara, Crystal and I met up at our transport ship to share our information. I told them about the lead ship, how the defenses were inactive and about my encounter with Dana. On their part Crystal reported a lot of confusion among the population, while Mara noted some Starlance tactics that a few pirates used.
Upon our return to the Proxima Eclipse we provided the Captain with the information we had compiled. It was all unsettling, but there had to be some other force trying to defy Starlance. Even worse Starlance itself seemed to be having internal troubles. The fact that enemies had some of our weapons and tactics meant that there was a leak or a spy somewhere within Starlance.